A. G. Geiger's place was a store frontage on the spinwards side of the boulevard. The entrance door was set far back and the windows were heavily screened, so I couldn't see into the store even with artificial aids. An animated signboard over the door read: "Geiger's Counter" cycled with pictures of a lot of oriental junk. I couldn't tell if it was any good, not being a collector of antiques, except unpaid bills. The entrance door was heavily armoured and I couldn't see through that either.

A building entrance adjoined it on one side and on the other was a glittering credit jewellery establishment. The jeweller stood in his entrance, teetering on his heels and looking bored, a tall handsome white-haired man wearing lean black clothes, with about nine carats of diamond on his right hand. A faint knowing smile curved his lips when I turned into Geiger's place.

The door opened automatically while I stood there and closed softly behind me. I walked on a thick blue rug that paved the floor from wall to wall. There were blue leather easy chairs with smoking stands next to them. A few sets of tooled leather bindings were set out on narrow tables, between bookends. There were more bound volumes and ancient disks in glass cases on the walls. Nice-looking merchandise, the kind a rich promoter would buy by the metre and declare it to be a family heirloom. At the back there was a grained wood-effect partition with a door in the middle of it, shut. In the corner made by the partition and one wall a woman sat behind a small desk with an antique data terminal sat on it.

Woman in bookstore She got up slowly and swayed towards me in a tight low-cut black dress that didn't reflect any light. She had long thighs and she walked with a certain something I hadn't often seen in bookstores. She was an ash blonde with greenish eyes, beaded lashes, hair waved smoothly back from ears in which large jet-black buttons glittered. Her fingernails were long and silvered.

She approached me with enough sex appeal to stampede a businessman's lunch and tilted a finger a stray, but not very stray tendril of softly glowing hair. Her smile was tentative, but could be persuaded to be nice.

"Was it something?" she inquired.

I had my sunglasses on. I put my voice high and let a bird twitter in it. "Would you happen to have a Ben Hur 1860?"

She didn't say "Huh?" but she wanted to. She smiled bleakly. "A first edition?"

"Third," I said, "The one with the erratum on page 116."

"I'm afraid not - at the moment."

"How about a Grand Theft Auto 1999 - the full set, of course?"

"Er - not at the moment," she said harshly. Her smile was now hanging by her teeth and eyebrows and wondering what it would hit when it dropped.

"You do sell antique books and media?" I said in my polite falsetto.

Part 2